CHITRAL, July 26: The Kalash people are conserving environment in Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur valleys by clinging to their centuries-old customs.
Muhkam Ayuni, a local development worker, told this correspondent on Thursday that no Kalash could think of going against these customs as they served the interests of the community and their violation was punished by censure, fine and social boycott. He said all Kalash raised cattle for domestic use but moved them all to pastures for the seven-month summer season in line with a tradition. “The cattle graze on pastures, so their beauty is maintained,” he said.
Gemseng Kalash, another local, said more than half of the people in the region earned livelihood by keeping milch animals. He said grass was harvested, dried and stored as animal food for winter season when Kalash valleys received more than five feet of snow. Mr Kalash said locals didn’t keep chicken at home in line with their faith for cleanliness.
“According to our dogma, chickens pollute everything at home, so if they’re kept outdoors, cleanliness and hygiene will be ensured,” he said. Pointing towards a field lush with grass, he said such a situation won’t be possible if most animals were kept in valleys in summer season. Tash Khan, a community leader of Rumbur valley, said Kalash settlements were designed in such a manner that chicken couldn’t be raised there.
Veterinary doctor Ashfaq Ahmad said by and large, Kalash people were protected against ‘zoonotic diseases’ as they kept cattle away for most part of the year. He said many diseases were transmitted by animals and chicken to human beings and therefore, Kalash people saved themselves by keeping themselves away.
According to locals, visitors are bound by a local custom not to pluck grapes and walnuts before a festival, pul, is held in September. Defiance of the said custom is punished by Rs1,000.
Badshah Kalash, a Birir resident, said a Kalash couldn’t harvest grapes and walnuts before that festival, leading to their preservation in the valleys.–Dawn